Thursday, January 7, 2010

Someone wants YOU to mumble a few words of Pashto

The US Military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, or I suppose someone on that board, came up with a moderate reorganization of the military. The plan is for a corps of experts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help drive military goals and make sure that their operations won't blow up in their faces. I really don't have anything snarky to say about this, it's a decent plan. But there are issues:
The program — which is expected to create a 912-member corps of mostly officers and enlisted service members who will work on Afghanistan and Pakistan issues for up to five years — was announced with much fanfare last fall. So far, 172 have signed up, and Admiral Mullen has questioned whether all of them are right for such a critical job.
The article gets into the fact that a 5-year commitment in something admittedly experimental is a really dangerous career path. Which it is, of course. If you jumped with both feet into studying Afghanistan in 2001, you would've been ignored 2 years later. If you jumped into Iraq in 2003, you'd be passe 4 years later. And now with the Yemen and the Somalia and the 2011 pull-out date, it's a dubious career move. And not all military folks have the opportunity to be as absurdly narrow-minded as us nerds, I understand that. But all the same, I think the only thing worse than having such small numbers is having the highest-ranking member of the armed forces say that you're not even worth the program's while.
“In many cases, the volunteers have been the right people for this very critical program,” Admiral Mullen said in the one-page memo, dated Dec. 14. “However, I am concerned that this is not the case across the board.”
Eeesh. Score one for slow-moving bureaucracy.

But the thing I'm most interested in the training. The article says that "volunteers receive cultural training and 16 weeks of language instruction in Dari, Pashto or Urdu" and for anyone that has learned those languages, 16 weeks ain't nothing. 16 weeks of Urdu and you're still wondering whether that's a "n" or an "l" and saying "Aap kya hal hai?" with a goofy grin on your face. I'd imagine that it would take more to break up the Quetta Shura. And speaking of Quetta, wither Balochi? Poor folks can't even get a government program to understand their region to fund studying their language.

So USMil is trying to fill up these slots with experts, and yet folks have graduated (including folks like me with exactly 16 weeks of Urdu under my belt, nontheless) and can't find jobs. Once again, the knowledge and people trying to find it are out there. But trying to find soldiers who you can force into learning really complex customs and languages and sacrifice their careers while they're at it is going to be difficult. Trying to convince history and linguistics nerds to study what they want: considerably less so. Sometimes, more bureaucracy is not the answer.

And I don't think Think-Tanks are necessarily the answer, either. Academics and warfare are really a nasty, ugly, mix, I realize that. I just suppose that trying to create a new Central Asia is going to take a lot more than guns, and any military solution should probably realize this.


  1. I don't know if my last comment went through, but I also wanted to thank you AJK for blog rolling us. Michael and I really appreciate. I wanted to email you but I couldn't find it.

  2. Hey, it's my pleasure. I really like the blog you two (and sometimes 3)run, you have a neat perspective on things, I like reading other young people's thoughts on these things. Expect me to nag you all a bit more over there.
    As for e-mail, you see I wasn't kidding about the web-averseness I have. It's sad, really. But I set up an e-mail account for this, it's on the "ABOUT ME" on the sidebar.

  3. after you offered your "mea culpa" for a mistake in Urdu I already wanted to write - I appreciate your posts over at Registan. it's good to see someone around who is not, like many others in the punditsphere on the region, pretending to know it all but just goes for it and then of course still manages to produce good content. to have someone from a different field (I understand you are not studying the region as your major subject at Univ) who dares to dive into the pond of the specialists is an enrichment. keep it up!

  4. These days, women want to posses the latest Coach bags , Handbags or Purses to look fashionable and elegant. Coach Wristlet not just look nice, but even add class to your living thus improving your confidence level. Majority of the females just can't do without a Coach Gallery or a handbag as they feel incomplete without one. Coach Legacy fill the blank space left in your dressing giving you a feeling of perfection and excellence.

    ED clothing art has become a fashion craze and signature style of those who enjoy artistic look of tattoo art. The trademark E hardy shirt for fall and winter 2010 offer a unique collection of fashionable handbags displaying the tattoo art of hardy shirts . Made for those who love tattoo art and high fashion, or simply an edgy and unique look in handbags, the collection of hardy shirt for fall and winter offers bags for all personality and fashion types.

    Hogan scarpe are the stuff of legends in the sporting world. hogan donna is the unparalleled provider when Hogan scarpe donna comes to sporting apparel like shoes. What sets them apart are not only the name or the extensive marketing operation that the Hogan scarpe uomo undertakes to promote the product but also the quality and art that goes with all shoes products.